Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Next Chapter

If you regularly visit this blog, you'll notice my posts have been rather sparse of late. I think about blogging a great deal, but quite frankly, there's just not a lot more I want to say here.

I started the Halcyon Days blog in February 2012. I was spending 10 hours each day away from home
at my workplace, yet I still posted a blog every day. One of my objectives for starting it was discipling myself to write EVERY day. 

I shared a portion of my life: my interests in cooking, gardening, reading. You came to know my dear dogs and followed the story of the cat who came to eat and stayed and gave birth to six kittens. I showed photos of family, the area where I live; told you family stories -- both recent and from days long past. You saw photos of my clothes, accessories, my hair styles and items found while shopping. You learned my position on certain current issues and came to "know" me through the blog. 

To those who have followed me on this journey I say thank you -- you have often been the highlight of my day and I feel I know you, too. The interaction through comments posted have been the highlight of the blog. I will continue to read your blogs and comment as time permits. I don't want to lose you forever. 

Having said the above, I feel it's time to move on. The stories that have been swimming and gestating in my head all these years must be written; some already have been; others are yet to come. They exist clearly but the challenge is to commit them to paper.

Time doesn't exist in our lives forever and if I don't tell my stories who will?  Is my objective to have them published? That remains to be seen but is not the reason I'm writing them. I'm doing so because I must. Even if other eyes never see them.

Are they fiction? Well, yes -- mostly at least! I'm a believer there's mostly no such thing however, unless the story presented itself in a dream. None of my stories did. Some are a part of my life, some happened to people I know, or stories told by family members and acquaintances. But fictionalized in a different place, time and circumstance. Names have been changed to protect the innocent. And the guilty

Here are some working titles for a short story collection:

JoBell and Aaron -- the story of a mother and her son
The Funeral -- Joan Dell's boring summer day
The Banker Takes Charge - managing money and other services 
I Love My Aunt -- playing the trump card
Poppy Takes Charge -- first time driving an automobile
Moon Over Mount Hood -- A long way from home and missing chocolate pie
Tales from the Cotton Patch -- shut up and take a nap
Rodeo Queens -- all the lovelies in their chiffon formals on a dusty football field
Getting Even in a Mustang -- a triumphant local returns
Drag Racing  -- Boys just want to have fun
Meet Me at the Frosty Dip -- small-town USA in the 60s
Dark Days, Judy's Story -- I wanted my step-father to die
Through an Open Window -- people are watching
Mr. A and the Negligee  -- having a blast at the taxpayers expense
Mama's Story -- Tales from the Great Depression
The Lost Family -- how do such things happen?
Priscilla's Story - coming to terms with the past
Roland's Revenge -- I hate my children because they are just like me
Letters from the Front -- two brothers write home during WWII
Betty Sue's Train Case -- an overnight guest owns many delightful things

If you have read this far and your eyes aren't completely glazed over, allow me to say this is only a short list of my stories. It's always been a curiosity to me that most things that happen in life become a plot for a story. I've been doing this since I was a child. A vivid imagination? A need to right the wrongs of life? Escapism? I certainly do not know the answer. 

In the future I might post a story. If you are signed up for an email when I post you will be notified. I am not closing out the blog for that reason. 

Meanwhile, goodbye for a while. And thank you. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Word Annoyances

Credit BBC

I don't know about you, but some words and phrases are so overused I cringe when I hear them. Words that don't mean anything in the context of their usage; words that stall for time; words that indicate the speaker is uninformed on the subject at hand. Laziness, conversationally speaking. 

This is not a complete list. Other lists abound, but here are some of the expressions and utterances I hear and read that are trite and overused and personally annoy me:

Whatever - a conversation killer.

Like - a perfectly good word when used properly, as in "I like apples," but most annonying when inserted into sentences constantly, as in "I, like, drove to the mall today and, like, the traffic was, like, horrible."

You Know - same usage pattern as "like" above.

Seriously? - of course I'm serious. Why else would I say it?

At the end of the day - this is probably the one I'm most tired of. A favorite of politicians stalling for time to provide answers to questions asked of them. 

Totally - what can I say about this one?  Reminds me of bouncy teenage girls effusing about anything/everything. 

Cool - can't you think of a better response?

Awesome - see "cool" above. 

Just 'sayin - slang that was fine for a while but has become much overused. 

That's my list. I know I've failed to include many so please add your favorites in the comments below. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Bags of books

It's difficult to resist sifting through tables of books when, for one dollar, you can fill a bag. 

And I didn't, when I stopped by the local library to return a book and discovered this sale. Those pictured actually filled two plastic shopping bags because two of them were quite large and heavy. 

Would I have purchased them at their regular used book price? Maybe not. But here's the reason for the choices I made:

The Secret History by Donna Tartt - I have read this book recently but it was stored on my Kindle reader, which is now "gone" because I inadvertently placed it in the washing machine. I bought this for my sister. 

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck - read it decades ago but don't own a copy. I may want to reread it someday. 

The Cat who Came for Christmas by Cleveland Amory - Sounds like a fun read. Gave it to my brother-in-law. 

The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher - I have this one in paperback and have read it more than once. Love it and wanted a hardback copy. 

Perrine's Literature - am not familiar with this college textbook but noticed it includes several authors' stories/poems I want to read. Very heavy book, in both weight and content!

Eat More Weigh Less - contains some good low-fat recipes. 

Fortune's Favorites by Colleen McCullough - have never heard of this book. Picked it because my sister loved The Thorn Birds by this author. It's hers when she's ready for it. 

I came home with lots of books for $2. Have you read any of these?  Do you ever buy second-hand books?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Going to the Fair

Does anyone still go to the Fair? Apparently they do, as they continue to be held each year.

I saw a billboard along the highway last week announcing the upcoming yearly event. I wonder what it’s like going to the Fair now. I haven’t been in years.

It once was the highlight of early Fall, kids saving up their money and going to the Fair. It was such a big event that one afternoon was designated “School Day” and the fairgrounds were closed to all except for the schoolchildren who were bused there from all over the county. That was great fun, going to the fair with your friends.

But the best time to go was at night, when the lights were bright and the place seemed magical. And our family always attended one night during the week. It was something daddy always dreaded but mother enjoyed it as much as her two daughters.

Here’s a side note you may not be able to imagine: Saturday night was designated “Colored” Night at the Fair, meaning that was the only time African-Americans were allowed to attend. Of course, this was the result of Jim Crow laws in place in the Southern United States up until 1965.

The crowds were huge at the Fair, as I remember, and in the eyes of a child, there was so many things to do there! 

The Midway was where all the activity was going on.

The rides: Merry-Go-Round, Bumper Cars, Tilt-a-Whirl, Roller Coaster and of course, the Farris Wheel. I’m sure there were other rides whose names I cannot even recall.

The Music: It seems it was always organ music playing as you wandered over the Fairgrounds. Sawdust covered the ground to keep down the dust from so many feet stomping through.

The Games: Toss a coin and try to make it land on a glass plate and you could take it home with you. Toss balls to hit an object and take home a teddy bear. Pick up a rubber duckie floating past in a trench and claim some little insignificant prize.

The Sideshows: For an admission behind a curtain you could see a goat with a woman’s head, a child with two heads and all sorts of tricks devised to take money from gullible people. Fortune Tellers. Hoochie-coochie shows (we were instructed to turn our heads as we passed by those!)

The Food: Candy Apples, Cotton Candy, Pronto Pups (also now known as Corn Dogs), greasy hamburgers and hotdogs, popcorn, peanuts. And I wanted to sample all of it! I don’t recall ever getting sick, but the odds were I should have!

The Exhibits: An entire hall was given over to displays that reflected the skills of area homemakers: homemade jam, jelly, pies; sewing; handwork. These were judged and ribbons given to winners.

Livestock: A barn with all manner of cows, horses, pigs, chickens and I don’t even remember what else. Prizes were given for the best specimen raised.

And finally there was the Grandstand Act, for a separate admission. Seated in the bleachers, you saw flying trapeze acts, clowns, tigers jumping through flaming hoops, girls performing tricks on horseback.

Many things have changed. Going to the Fair is no longer the highlight of a rural child’s Fall life. The lights and delights of the Fair are overshadowed by many other exciting activities. But I’m glad I got to experience County Fairs back then.

What is your experience, past or present, with Town, Village, County or State Fairs?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


I write this post not because I have knowledge or any particular interest in mules. I have never owned or lived with an owner of mules, although I’ve heard many stories told by ancestors who once owned them.


I present this excerpt from William Faulkner's Flags in the Dust to illustrate how a skilled writer pens words that grab you and won't let you go; captures a solid sense of time and place; explores the deep strata of history and legend.

The fiction of William Faulkner is populated by unforgettable characters caught up in the brutality and tenderness of the human condition, during a tragic time in our nation's history. His themes are universal, however: tradition, family, community, the land, history, race and the passions of ambition and love.

Sometimes, he gives us a slice of downplayed humor, as in his discussion of mules.

“Some Cincinnatus of the cotton fields should contemplate the lowly destiny, some Homer should sing the saga, of the mule and his place in the South. He it was, more than any one creature or thing, who, steadfast to the land when all else faltered before the hopeless juggernaut or circumstance, impervious to conditions that broke men’s hearts because of his venomous and patient preoccupation with the immediate present, won the prone South from beneath the iron heel of Reconstruction and taught it pride again through humility and courage through adversity overcome, who accomplished the well-nigh impossible despite hopeless odds, by sheer and vindictive patience. Father and mother he does not resemble, sons and daughters he will never have; vindictive and patient (it is a known fact that he will labor ten years willingly and patiently for you, for the privilege of kicking you once); solitary but without pride, self-sufficient but without vanity; his voice is his own derision. Outcast and pariah, he has neither friend, wife, mistress nor sweetheart; celibate, he is unscarred, possesses neither pillar nor desert cave, he is not assaulted by temptations not flagellated by dreams, nor assuaged by visions; faith, hope and charity are not his. Misanthropic, he labors six days without reward for one creature whom he hates, bound with chains to another whom he despises, and spends the seventh day kicking or being kicked by his fellows..”

In typical Faulknerian style, paragraphs and sentences are long, the punctuation at times irregular. The above is only a portion of a paragraph that runs on for approximately 430 words!

If you want to learn interesting facts about mules, information is at the American Mule Museum. There are fascinating facts here, most of which I didn't know. It gives one a new appreciation of the humble mule.


If you regularly read this blog, you know I am on a quest to read all Faulkner major works by the end of 2014. And I am making good progress. So far I have completed (and thoroughly enjoyed):

The Sound and the Fury
The Unvanquished
Flags in the Dust
There Was a Queen (short story)
Today I will begin reading Light in August.

Monday, August 25, 2014


“The topmost covering of a bed, often functioning as a blanket; a coverlet”

I added a new word to my vocabulary last week: Counterpane.

Mother said while her day sitter was getting bedsheets from a drawer, she pulled out an item, which she calls “counterPIN,” that mother made more than sixty years ago.

It is simply a white topsheet onto which a large design is stamped in the center and four corners. The designs are then embrodiered with brightly colored floss.

Mother said she remembered both her mother and grandmother making them, and she herself made one shortly after she was married.

Traditionally, it functions as a bedspread during hot summer months, something to dress up a bed but without much weight.

Seeing it on her bed brings to mind hot summer days when there was no air conditioning, when windows were thrown open to bring into the house whatever breeze existed on those sultry Southern days. The colorful handwork reminiscent of flowers cut from the garden and brought inside to adorn tables.

Her bed now sports the counterpane. When I asked if in all these years if she’d ever used it she said no.

Surely, at 93 years old, it was high time she uses this beautiful heirloom to adorn her bed in lieu of it lingering in the bottom drawer of bedsheets.

I'm very glad it was "found" and I was able to learn the "history" of counterpanes in general, and this one in particular.

Are you familiar with the word counterpane?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Lost Art of Conversation

Have you noticed? Most people, at least many of those I come in contact with, are narcissistic.

We see it everywhere. People almost totally focused upon themselves, their activities, their interests, their need for attention (read this as the definition of the entire social media realm).

You meet up with someone and ask how they’re doing or what they’ve been doing. Fifteen minutes later they’re still prattling on, with never a thought of asking you one thing about yourself.

Even worse, you share some personal story with a friend or acquaintance, and without even acknowledging what you said, they launch into their own story, seeming to want to “top” your story with a better one of their own.

Some otherwise very nice people are guilty of this. I wonder if they're even aware of how selfish their actions are perceived by others. 

Has it always been this way? I think not. I can remember the day when a real conversation was possible. The give and take of sharing ideas and opinions. 

Oh, and don’t even get me started on the way folks interrupt you when your’re talking! This is the one thing that most irritates me.

Talking over someone else has reached epic proportions, especially on television, which is the main reason I can no longer bear to watch anything other than a straight news broadcast.

I used to enjoy turning on tv in the morning while having breakfast, to catch up on the latest news. I no longer do that because of the cutesy tv personalities sitting around the news desk, five people talking at once, to the point that viewers don’t hear a word any of them said. Yikes, why do they do that?

So now I get my morning news from radio, thank you very much.

People who do this, are they conceited? vain? emotional need for attention? think they are clever/cute? Yes, probably all, plus narcissistic -- both the tv personalities and also the people we come in daily contact with. Just sayin'.

Can we do anything about this trend? Probably not. I used to be surprised and disappointed that a person didn’t want to get to know me or know anything about me. Now I just expect less.

Some psychologists attribute this current excessive narcissistic behavior to being raised in a family so lacking in parental attention that they play out in adulthood an unquenchable need for others to listen to them and make them feel significant.

Wow, all I can say is there must have been a great many bad parents out there who didn’t listen to their kids. But still, I cannot totally accept this explanation, because for at least the past 25 years parents (most) have done nothing but spoil, pamper and dote on children/grandchildren, to the point of ridiculousness. And we still see this narcissistic behavior in that group as well.

Anyone will tell you the secret to the Art of Conversation is Being a Good Listener. But wait, I'm already doing that! And what I get is constantly listening to someone talk about themselves ad nauseam.


Tell me your experiences with this subject. And if you haven’t experienced it I’d sure like travel in your circle!  
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